Home > Media Center > OTA HDTV in Canada on Vista betas

OTA HDTV in Canada on Vista betas

These instructions have been superceded, please click on this link for the newer and more complete instructions

During my testing of Windows Vista Media Center, it appeared that the off-the-air registry hack to get your ATSC tuners working in Canada was now defunct.  I’ve been doing some playing in the registry and have come up with a new method that does seem to work well in Canada.  I’d appreciate it if someone can test this out and confirm it in the comments.  If it is proven to work for others as well, I’ll publish this with screenshots as a more official looking FAQ.


  1. You have a working analog tuner, with MCE drivers installed
  2. You have a working ATSC tuner, with MCE drivers installed

Steps to enable the ATSC tuner in Canada

  1. Configure your Media Center as if you lived in the US, preferably using a zip code somewhere near your location.  I used Buffalo ZIP 14201.  Let Media Center auto-configure your tuners.
  2. Confirm that it’s all working properly (obviously the guide data will be wrong at this point).
  3. Open up the registry editor by typing regedit [enter] into the start search box.  Note that you can really mess things up in the registry, so be careful and if you’re not comfortable in the registry then you might want to stop here.
  4. Locate the following key in the registry: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\Video\Tuners\{71985F48-1CA1-11D3-9CC8-00C04F7971E0}.  This is the tuning space for the digital tuner(s) and at this point it should be properly set up for ATSC tuning.
  5. Right-click on the above branch and select “Export…”, save it with a filename like “ATSC_Tuners_Working.reg”.
  6. Navigate in Media Center back to the TV Settings menu and set up your TV signal.  This time make sure that you select Canada and get everything set up properly for your provider.  Note that when you run through the setup this time MCE will not detect the ATSC tuner, which is normal.
  7. Verify that everything is working as you would expect, albeit with no high-definition content yet.
  8. Close media center
  9. Find the registry file that you saved earlier in USA mode, double-click to import it back into the registry.
  10. Locate the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Media Center\Service\EPG\ATSC and modify its value from “0” to “1”.
  11. Reboot the computer *or* simply restart the Microsoft Media Center Receiver service using the services control panel.
  12. Start up MCE, navigate to the TV Settings Guide Setup and manually add the channels you would like to receive.  This page is a good resource for the Toronto area.  The format you want to enter, using the Fox Network on the RemoteCentral page as a reference, is 29-1 for the channel designation (page one of the add missing DTV channel wizard) and 14 for the frequency (page two).
  13. For any channels that don’t automatically get guide information (most likely Canadian channels like CTV) you can associate them with another channel in your guide using the edit guide setup tools.

Works well for me, please point out any inconsistencies or errors for me before I publish this more official-like.  This guide was done primarily by memory so I’m sure I’ve messed up a few references.

Categories: Media Center
  1. August 25, 2006 at 2:30 pm

    Issue #1 – the signal strength UI crashes ehshell.exe with these settings.

  2. groovejumper
    August 25, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    While I’m not on Vista yet, I’ve been running mce since ’02, and rebuilt my main mce machine a dozen times. Was using an HDTV wonder, now an avermedia a180.

    I’ve done the ’05 Canadian HD hack several times now, in fact I don’t have to look up the reg key anymore ’cause I just remember it…

    I was intrigued by your new process because I’ve been thinking about switching over to vista, but I wasn’t sure about the hack process. Now I know. Thanks!

    But my main question is this: In your process, you mention CTV. I’ve always been unable to tune CTV in MCE. I can get it through either card in other apps, comes in fine on my other non-pc hd tuners, but never in MCE.

    So does this mean that you can tune CTV ota in Vista? That would be awesome. Did you have to do anything out of the ordinary?


  3. August 28, 2006 at 8:24 am

    You are absolutely correct, CFTO doesn’t work in MCE and I hadn’t caught that in my testing. I’ve reported the issue to Microsoft as part of the vista beta hoping we can get something done about it. For the record, the official approach I’m taking is that when configured for use in Buffalo, several channels are available to the PC but not available to Media Center including WIVB (native CBS feed not the UPN simulcast), CFTO, and CITY. Given that a major US station doesn’t work for a US market I’m hoping it will get some attention.

  4. SD StewartAndress
    September 11, 2006 at 4:42 am

    By far the most clearly thought out and explained and working method I’ve found yet. I was about to give up and settle for dual-booting with an old XP Home just to have the OTA HDTV that I could not get to work in Vista.

    Thank you so much for the effort put into it, hopefully someone at Microsoft will catch on that ‘way up here in the Northland’ we too have computers and HDTV and sometimes we even like to watch it using their software!

  5. groovejumper
    November 5, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Posted this on TGB too, but I figured I’d post it here as well as I’m just so impressed that you not only got OTA set up for MCE in Canada, but that you also straightened out the CTV thing (which others had tried to do for over a year!)

    Here’s my post:

    Took me a while, but I finally bit the bullet, I built a new machine this week and decided to give Vista (rc2) a go. Everything went surprisingly well, did have a few mysterious problems which I eventually resolved.

    Still have a few minor issues and one MAJOR one.

    I have three tuners in my machine – two analog, and one digital. It all works great, UNTIL I try to schedule a recording on the digital tuner. When I do, it immediately changes the recording to an analog channel, and puts a little exclamation by the show in the digital portion of the guide saying that it’s going to record on the other channel. If I already have two recordings scheduled on the analog tuners, it says there’s a conflict. If I try to ‘Resolve Conflict’, the screen just blinks for a sec and never runs the function. Kinda like the scheduler thinks there’s only two tuners.

    Now, the developers in their ‘infinite wisdom’ (don’t get me wrong, I develop software for a living too and have nothing but respect for the MCE team) have decided that Canadians shouldn’t watch OTA broadcasts, even though here in Mississauga (suburb of Toronto) I can easily pick up 6 stations from Buffalo, 5 from Toronto, and another 4 or 5 are marginal. I believe it’s because Canada hasn’t passed the same laws as the US in terms of ‘forcing’ broadcasters to provide digital OTA on a specific timeline.

    However, some guys with big brains and a love for HD figured out a way to ‘hack’ the registry in MCE 2005 to enable an ATSC tuner, and subsequently how to do it in Vista as well (here – and Thank You!). I followed those instructions, and it was easy and it worked!

    Except for the scheduler problem where it thinks I only have two tuners. Is this a triple-tuner bug? Anyone else experience this? Or is it because I’m Canadian and I’m just not supported? I suppose if it’s a bug related to a hack, there’s no hope for a fix. But my hope is that there’s another registry setting somewhere that fixes this?


    PS: This is a plea for help. I absolutely have to get this figured out by Wednesday, or there’s gonna be trouble in the house as that’s the first night where we record on all three tuners… But even before then, not being able to record on the HD tuner is going to cause some conflict…

  6. November 5, 2006 at 9:33 am

    I assume you’re using Vista RC1? That was a big issue with that build, and I had to check every day to make sure there were no conflicts. It has been fixed in RC2, and I’m using that build without issue now and using four tuners. Sorry, nothing you can do to fix it other than getting a newer build.

  7. groovejumper
    November 5, 2006 at 9:36 am

    Wow that was quick! Actually, I am using RC2 (5744). Must be something odd in the registry. I’ll have to do some digging.

  8. groovejumper
    November 5, 2006 at 9:55 am

    (crossposted to TGB)

    Positive. Downloaded it from MSDN a week ago.

    But that wasn’t it. I found the problem – when I followed your instructions, when I got to this step:

    ‘Reboot the computer *or* simply restart the Microsoft Media Center Receiver service using the services control panel.’

    I chose to restart the Receiver service (I tend to do things like that to avoid reboots – I just built the machine and had rebooted >50 times that day…) This morning I rebooted for the first time since ‘fixing’ the registry, and it now all works.

    In retrospect, I suppose if I had *also* restarted the Scheduler service it may well have worked right from the beginning.

    Anyway, thanks for the help!

  9. November 17, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    I just followed the instructions you have and it worked great! Thanks Peter!

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